Right in the Eye Part 6: Yielding Control to God

There’s a certain kind of independence and flexibility we all intrinsically yearn for, and that is being able to do what we want, when we want, and where we want it. It sounds like rampant irresponsibility, and in some ways it is, but many people justify it with the old belief that it’s alright as long as no one gets hurt. While some may find that to be adequate reasoning, it’s not one that is universally accepted; many would believe that Christians are bound by rules such as these, but in truth we are allowed these freedoms, but only to a certain extent.

 

Churches – whether it’s a modern Christian church in Dubai or wherever else – definitely do not promote the idea of stifling free will; instead they even propagate these freedoms, but only if they’re not abused. As with everything – it must be in moderation.

 

This simple rule of “regulated” freedom was broken by the Israelites – for a time, they would sin and sin again and would do anything the wanted, only to end up having to face the consequences of their actions and repent at the last minute, thus left with no choice but to ask for another chance from God. According to Judges 21:25:

 

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

God, in all his love for man, forgave when they asked. He continued to work as he did in spite of Israel abandoning Him; little did they know that in the midst of all their chaos, God was preparing for Christmas.

 

He used two unlikely people: one – a woman angry and bitter against God, and the other – a man who held his beliefs despite Israel’s abandonment of God.

 

Ruth’s Tale

The story of Ruth is one that is integral to Christmas, as it played a large role in setting it up.

 

Ruth 1:1-2 begins:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.”

Naomi went on to marry her two sons to Moabite women but were left with naught but her daughters-in-law when both her sons died. From this event she brewed resentment towards God, believing that if there were a God he had forsaken her; she believed that if there were a God he did not know her name.

 

Heartbroken, she opted to return to Bethlehem, however, Ruth returned with her. Despite all the drawbacks of being a foreign woman in a foreign land, her loyalty to Naomi remained strong. In the passage Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth reaffirms this, saying:

 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.

So with Ruth, Naomi returned to Bethlehem, right when it was the barley harvesting season. During the time, it was good practice to allow widows and servants to pick up after any farms’ initial harvest so they may use the excess barley for themselves. Ruth partook in this practice and captured the attention of Boaz – a farm owner. He knew of her; rumors and stories of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi had spread among the townsfolk. This impressed him, thus in Ruth 2:11-12 he says to her:

 

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

Boaz protected her, urging his servants to leave her alone as she gleaned the barley field.

 

From that event time goes on, but eventually, Naomi – who was getting older – and Ruth discuss the latter’s need to be married. As she was a foreign woman with almost nothing to her name, she was left no choice but to find for herself a kinsman-redeemer. Ruth went to Boaz, who himself attempted to get them another guardian-redeemer. However, he was unsuccessful as according to Ruth 4:5-6:

 

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

In the end, Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son named Obed. Naomi lived long enough to see this, and as she held the baby in her hands, she realizes that in spite of everything that had transpired, God had been faithful to her after all, and that God had redeemed her and her family.

Obed then has his own son, Jesse, who is the father of David, the second king of Israel. Much later on Nathan the prophet appears to David on behalf of God, and in 2 Samuel 7:16 states:

Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.

David’s bloodline went on as foretold, and about 25 begats later, according to Matthew 1:15-16:

Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.”

Our Lord and savor Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day.

 

All throughout the rest of his life he came to be known as the son of God, but also as the son of David. He was a king, as he so bravely proclaimed as he stood in front of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea (who was appointed by Tiberius of Rome). John 18:36 says:

 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

What can we learn from this?

Ruth’s tale was an important one, as aforementioned, because she played a huge role in setting up the birth of Christ.

Also, Jesus Christ coming into our world had a profound impact on mankind, as evidenced by how his tales withstood the test of time. Pontius Pilate was a powerful man, sure, but in the end he ended up as nothing more than a footnote in the story of King Jesus who used his power to give it to those who had none.

And you know what? He still does it until today.

How, then, can we take part in the story of Jesus Christ centuries after it had transpired?

While many may not realize this, Jesus is always there for us. He is always close by, ready for the time you’ll allow him to enter your life. He is the king that gives all of us an opportunity to be better than what we are now; He is the one who can lead us into righteousness – as long as we allow him to. (Like any good king, of course, he will not force himself unto you.)

As the Christmas season rolls in and we are once again reminded of the importance and wonder that was the birth of Jesus Christ, do something new – instead of simply doing what you want, when you want, and where you want and centering everything on yourself, try letting Jesus in – you will learn to live right no longer from the outside in, but from the inside out. In addition, you will learn to live with your hands and your heart wide open, as long as you’re able to yield control to Him.

Winter in the Desert: Christmas in Dubai

Contrary to popular belief, people in the Middle East also celebrate Christmas, especially in Dubai. This is because this beautiful and economically powerful city in the Middle Desert is full of professionals who came from different parts of the globe, and they have brought their Christmas traditions with them. This phenomenon has caused a melding of the different holiday customs and practices, making Dubai’s Christmas experience unique.

The malls, the hotels, and most importantly, the modern Christian churches in Dubai all exude the season’s warmth, and it does so in ways that are completely different from the rest of the world.

Dubai Winter Festival

First and foremost would be UAE’s most famous event during the Yuletide season – the Dubai Winter Festival. Already in its fourth year, this is the go-to event if you want to celebrate with thousands of fellow holiday lovers like you, anything and everything there is about Christmas. So if you and your family want to meet Santa Claus in the flesh, experience ice skating, engage in snowball fights, marvel at the giant Christmas tree display, and watch Peter Pan’s Christmas adventure, the Dubai Winter Festival would be perfect for you.

Christmas Markets

Whether you like it or not, and whatever your moral standpoint you have towards it, it’s undeniable that shopping will always be a part of Christmas. And in Dubai, there are so many Christmas markets for people who want and need to buy stuff for the holiday celebrations. There’s the Atlantis Festive Village and ARTE at Time Square Centre. Meanwhile, for those who would love to have fresh and organic produce on the Christmas table, there is the Ripe Festive Market at Festive Zabeel Park and Ripe Food & Craft Market and Al Barsha Pond Park.

Christmas Brunches And Trees

A lot of people who celebrate the holidays have dinner on Christmas Eve. In Dubai, however, Christmas brunches are the in thing.  And while you can have the Christmas brunch in your own home, you can choose to have it in many of Dubai’s fine dining restaurants.

Another staple to the Christmas tradition would have to be the Christmas trees.  And in Dubai, there are a lot of places where you can buy different kinds of Christmas trees, whether you go for natural or synthetic.

The C Word

As what has been evident in previous paragraphs, Christmas, unlike in other Middle East countries, is something that is not only openly mentioned, but also openly celebrated. In fact, there are many Christmas customs and practices that many of the people who live in the city, especially the expatriates, practice.

This holiday celebration, however, is a very secular one, as any religious aspect of the holiday cannot be put on display in any public establishment. This is because even though there is no prohibition on the practice of religion, there is still that lingering cautiousness of the people to not offend anyone of a different religion.

Nevertheless, the important thing is that despite the lack of displays of Christmas cheer that are rooted on the Christian faith and the overabundance of secular holiday traditions, there is that sense of harmony and cheer within Dubai, most especially within the expatriate community.

Each country celebrates Christmas differently, and Dubai is no exception. The way it is being observed in such a diverse city is secular due to necessity, but that shouldn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t mean anything deeper than just shopping and mealtimes – the fact that the people of Dubai can live together in peace all year round is proof of that.